Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Bad Flight and a Good Flight

The forecast was for good lift to perhaps 8000', clear skies, and light winds. I planned to fly once or twice in the Blanik to work on the stuff I mentioned last week. After I spent an hour orienting another pilot on the PW5, it was early afternoon. Dust devils were popping off. Glass ships were staying up. Since I planned to do some extensive slips at altitude, I was glad to see that there was good lift so I wouldn't be down right away. Yeah, right.

I did a wing-down takeoff. I passed through some good lift at 3000' AGL and released, but could not connect with the thermal. I hunted all around but could only find light sink or zero sink. I could see several gliders about a thousand feet higher than me, but could never find an elevator to take me up. Pretty soon I was back at the Initial Point, without having practiced anything except some steep turns. I figured at least I could practice slipping the whole pattern (flying the whole approach without flaps or spoilers). Yeah, right.

I found nothing but sink all through the pattern. Not drastic, but definitely down. It was as if the glider was really dragging. No flaps, no spoilers, no slipping - flying as efficiently as I could. I couldn't abbreviate the downwind much because there was a towplane landing in front of me. By the time I was approaching the base turn, I was seriously low. I made an angled base leg that headed me right for the landing area, and came in lower than I ever have before. Safe, but barely, after 24 minutes.

A friend of a friend had come out for a first glider flight. Since he's already a Commercial power pilot, he was eager to do some thermaling, no qualms about lots of circling. We let off at 4,500 MSL in lift and this time got right in it. We easily got up to about 6,500 feet. We cruised around a bit and I let him fly straight and some easy turns. Later we found more thermals that took us up to 7,800'. He had a great time. The air was clear, the ground is still green, and the airfield and other areas are full of flowers. I had to force the glider down with spoilers and some fast turns to increase drag. This time we were in lift on the whole downwind leg (go figure!) so I at least got to practice a long slip. We came in for a very smooth landing, right within the first box, for a 1:06 total flight time. He was very happy to have had a good first glider flight, and I was glad that my whole day wasn't ruined by that first fiasco.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I've had flights like those - both of them - and a couple times have been mad enough at myself after a 10min sled ride that I've just put the glider away. This brings the fun:work ratio way way down if you assemble & disassemble each day. :/ I'm glad you stuck with it. For me, a bad first flight seems to erase any strong desire to charge off on an x/c until I've had at least another hour of confidence building ( in the day and in me ) locally.

Sarah... pining away for spring in frozen MN